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Heel Tough Blog: Louisville Recap

Updated: Jan 18

AP Photo

Last night, Carolina used a big first half, to take down Louisville 86-70, to improve to 14-3, and 6-0 in the ACC. R.J. Davis led the way with 21 points on 6-12, to lead all scorers, and he was one of five Tar Heels to score double figures. The others include Armando Bacot (19), Jae’Lyn Withers (15), Cormac Ryan (14), and Harrison Ingram (10), to help balance Carolina’s offensive attack. UNC shot 48% from the field, and 45% from behind the arc, on 10 made threes, the best perimeter shooting night we’ve seen from Carolina in ACC play so far. After grinding out three straight wins on the road, Carolina returned home and put together their best offensive performances since the end of non-conference play. 

Carolina used an 11-0 run, to build an early 15-4 lead last night, to take early control of the game. They would control the first half all the way through, to build a 46-29 lead. Cormac Ryan paced the offense early, knocking down four three-pointers, the first time all season long, he looked in rhythm offensively. That lead would dwindle in the second half, as Louisville went on a stretch, making 10 of 11 shots, to make it a 55-50 game at the midway point of the second half. Another 10-2 run, effectively put the game away. 

The Tar Heels had been dominant defensively in conference play entering last night’s contest, and that wasn’t the case against Louisville. The Cardinals scored 70 points, the most UNC has allowed in ACC play, on 49% shooting from the field, and 44% from behind the arc, making it easier for Hubert Davis to stay on his team, as they begin to prepare for Boston College later in the week. 

The truth is that Carolina had nothing to gain, and everything to lose last night, given Louisville’s standing in the ACC. While Carolina may have left a lot to be desired with the way they played at times in the second half, the game was never really in doubt, and they did what they had to do, to win their seventh straight game, and improve to 6-0 in the ACC, for the first time since 2015-16. Certain players stepped up along the way, while others continued to climb the ladder toward history. Here’s everything you need to know about last night’s win over Louisville: 

  1. The Jae’Lyn Withers Game: Withers faced his former team for the first time since transferring out of the program, and put together his best game as a Tar Heel. Withers recorded a double-double, scoring 15 points, and grabbing 10 rebounds, in 24 minutes off the bench. He was efficient from the field, shooting 5-6, and was his usual stellar self defensively. After struggling to find his role early in the season, Withers now knows what is expected of him every time out on the court, and has made an impact in every game since the calendar turned to 2024. 

  2. Perimeter Shooting: Even during the winning streak, Carolina hadn’t shot the ball well from the outside, but that changed last night, as Carolina shot 45%, going 10-22. After making his first three triples, Cormac Ryan had his best game from the outside, going 4-7. R.J. Davis made multiple three-pointers for the 14th straight game, the second-longest streak in program history. Harrison Ingram added the other two made threes, as he continues to shoot over 40% from behind the arc. 

  3. Second-Half Defense: It’s not fair to say that Carolina took a step back last night defensively, but Hubert Davis was visibly upset with the effort and the execution in his postgame interview. Louisville scored 41 points in the second half, on 64% shooting, including a stretch where they made 10 of 11 shots. Part of that was Louisville making tough shots, but unlike against Syracuse, UNC wasn’t as hungry in the second half, after building such a big lead. 

  4. Rebounding: The Tar Heels continue their dominance on the glass, outrebounding Louisville 40-28 last night, including 12-6 on the offensive glass. Withers led Carolina in rebounding with his 10 off the bench, in total, four different Tar Heels brought down at least four rebounds. The defensive progress has gotten the majority of the attention, and rightfully so, but Carolina’s in-season improvement in that department can’t be understated in regards to the seven-game winning streak, where they’ve out-rebounded every opponent except one. 

  5. Ball Movement: The chemistry of this team has been well documented, even if the assists don’t always back it up. Last night it did, as Carolina assisted on 12 of their 17 first-half baskets, and 19 of their 19 made baskets for the entire game. Davis, Bacot, and Ingram all had at least 5 assists, making it hard to defend all of their offensive options in the half-court. 

  6. Special Teams: The Tar Heels are doing the big things, and also the little things, and that was on display once again last night. Carolina outscored Louisville in the paint 34-24, on the fast break 9-0, and points off of turnovers, 13-7. 

Up Next: Carolina hits the road again, this time traveling to Chestnut Hill, to take on Boston College. That game will take place on Saturday, with a scheduled tip time of 2:15 on The CW.

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